06/15/2008 | 10:26 PM
MANILA, Philippines - An organization of Rapu-Rapu Island residents has demanded the pullout of South Korean investors from the controversial Lafayette Phils. mining site, saying they want no mining operations on the island, which is part of Albay.
LG International and Korean Resources Corp. (Kores) gained majority control of Lafayette last April 2008 and took over the operations of the company.
Residents slammed Lafayette's Rapu-Rapu polymetallic mining project, saying it is "bankrupt, controversial and environmentally-damaging."
"There is no reason to continue the Lafayette mining project. Its three-year operation in Rapu-Rapu Island has brought so much environmental destruction, community displacements, human rights violations and livelihood loss to the local people," said Mr. Antonio Casitas, spokesman of the Sagip Isla Sagip Kapwa, a local organization that opposes any mining project in the remote island.
Lafayette was found liable by the Philippine government in November 2005 of contaminating the waters in Rapu-Rapu with cyanide and was fined P10 million. Apart from this, two mine spills, a landslide and several fish kills happened during the operation of Lafayette from June 2005 to October 2007.
The project on Rapu-Rapu Island carries debts of more than $270 million and A$65.6 million due to operational difficulties and inter-company loans. It was met with continuous and strong protest actions at the local, national and international levels.
Casitas reiterated that the Rapu-Rapu mine should be closed for good instead of being sold off to other investors.
"We have said before that large-scale mining is not technically, economically and socially feasible in the small-island ecosystem of Rapu-Rapu. The Korean companies are not welcome on the island and they will suffer the same fate of Lafayette," said Arieto Radores, spokesman of UMALPASKA-Bikol, an anti-mining alliance in the region,.
"Until now the project has no social license to operate. Bicolanos continue to oppose the project and the provincial government officials do not want it," explained Mr. Radores.
"We are now just trying to recuperate from the division and damage Lafayette brought to our people. The urgent action is the rehabilitation of the island and the compensation of mining-affected people not another mining operation. We will hold Environment Secretary Lito Atienza and President Arroyo accountable for their decision to allow the continuation of large-scale mining in our island," Casitas said.
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) had previously ordered Lafayette to pay P134 million to ensure that the environment around the mine site is restored and rehabilitated in case the project is abandoned. There is no confirmation if the company had complied.
"The Arroyo [administration] has not learned its lesson from its bankrupt flagship mining project. As the mining project in Rapu-Rapu continues to be anti-people, anti-environment and serves only the interest of foreigners and corrupt government officials, it will fail and be kicked out of the island," Radores said.